An Afternoon with Serena Brooke, Pt One

Serena Brooke at Cardiff Reef, surf photo by Chris Grant An Afternoon with Serena Brooke, Part One of Two JettyGirl Online Surf Magazine's Interview with a Living Legend Serena Brooke surf photo by Chris GrantIn the mid-90's I went for a mid-morning surf at Lowers when a nicely directed head-high swell snuck into the famous Southern California pointbreak. About an hour into the session I saw a girl surf waves like I had never seen them surfed before. Wave after wave she'd drive into flawless figure-8 roundhouse cutbacks followed by extended tail-drop floaters. I actually got out of the water to watch, soon learning that the surfer was none other than Australia's Serena Brooke. Fast forward a decade and a half and over the past couple of weeks I finally had the opportunity to work with Serena. Spend a day with her and you're left with no doubt why she's been one of the most beloved surfers of the past few generations. When you mix talent with good looks, quick wit, intelligence and a dash of mischief, it makes for an unforgettable individual. However, while Serena's every bit a superstar, she's also as down-to-earth as a good friend you've known forever ...and that's what I admire most about her. We're honored and humbled to bring you this interview with a living legend. Enjoy! --Chris Grant JettyGirl: You've been in California for a while now. What will you be up to for the rest of the year? Serena Brooke: I've been in California for a couple months but I'm actually heading home tonight. I'm possibly going to be doing a trip to China for a surfing expedition and then I'm headed to Hawaii for the Triple Crown and to do Bud Light promos. I've actually also got a trip to the Bahamas on a cruise ship with Bud Light Lime. Then, I'm going back to Hawaii after that. JG: You were part of a group of women who seemed to have it all …mainstream women's surf magazines, all-girl surf movies and a good deal of sponsorship opportunities. Just this morning we picked up a random sampling of fifteen surf magazines from the late 1990's/early 2000's and discovered that you were in over thirty full-page and double-page ads. Do you ever feel like you were part of a "golden age" in women's surfing? SB: Yes, I definitely feel like I was part of a golden age. There was the whole 90's boom in the surf world. There was the Hollywood aspect with Blue Crush. There was the women's boardshort revolution with Roxy. The world was thriving also at that point ...there were a lot of girls-only surfing magazines as well. We started getting standalone events on the World Championship Tour. The world economically was doing great and everything was booming at that point. I'm super grateful to have been a part of it. It's definitely a little different these days. There's nowhere near the amount of coverage available in the magazines and there simply aren't many publications either. At the time there was Surf Girl, Surfing Girl, Wahine …probably five magazines that were just dedicated to women's surfing that aren't even in publication anymore. Serena Brooke backside floater in Cardiff, surf photo by Chris Grant of JettyGirl Online Surf Magazine JG: Nowadays, it seems like there's more money for a few girls but less opportunity for the majority of them. A couple of girls on Tour are making a great living yet others can barely scrape together enough pennies to get to the next stop. With more young surfers than ever hoping to make the Tour someday, do you think female professional surfing is still a viable career path? SB: I think female professional surfing is a great career path but it's true that just a select few girls make a lot of money doing that. You know you've either got to be a real standout competitively like a Stephanie Gilmore, just winning everything or you need to be able to market yourself in some way that's outside of the box and be very savvy with always being in the media …you know maybe someone like Claire Bevilacqua who's got Bevo's Backwash and who's always getting herself out there and shooting a lot of photos. I definitely think it's still possible ...it's just you have to put hard work into it. That's always been the same really but right now there doesn't seem to be the amount of spots that there used to be. However, if there's a will, there's a way …and if you want to put in the dedication and the hard work and you surf really well, you can definitely do that. A lot of girls that don't even surf that well can make money and a really good career out of the surf world by pursuing modeling, surfing and that whole thing. There are definitely opportunities, it's just how you want to approach it and what you're willing to sacrifice of yourself. Some people don't want to go down the mainstream path of wearing the tiny bikini and doing the photo shoots and acting a little bit like a bimbo to get attention. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that if that's what you're into but that's not for everyone either. It seems like there is a little bit of a narrow doorway when it comes to making it. It's not really a broad spectrum like it is on the men's side of things. You can be crazy and not the prettiest surfer boy but if you surf great, you can have an attitude and that'll work for you and you can build upon that. However, that doesn't really cross over to women's surfing. They want the girls that fit a certain mold ...it's limiting and one dimensional which I don't think it should be. We're all different. It would be boring if all the girls were exactly the same. I think that the surfing world could definitely learn from the rest of the world and other sports and the reality of what is …which is that we're not all exactly the same blonde haired, stereotyped surfer girl. We have a lot of characters…
"You can be crazy and not the prettiest surfer boy but if you surf great, you can have an attitude and that'll work for you and you can build upon that. However, that doesn't really cross over to women's surfing."

JG: At the 1999 WCT event at Teahupo'o, you suffered a serious concussion but got right back out there anyway, pushing through to the semis. At a place like that, are you even thinking about the other competitors or does the wave itself simply demand all of your attention? SB: I would say at a place like Teahupo'o you're obviously aware of what's going on in the heat and the scores you need but there's so much more going on. I remember my heats in Teahupo'o when it was six foot and ugly and not even breaking well, it was more that you stuck together with your competitor. I had a heat with Chelsea Hedges out there and in the heat before Lisa Anderson had almost drowned and had been pulled up by her hair and basically rescued. Chelsea took a wave in my heat and cut her hip and had a big gash which required numerous stitches to close. That was right before I got hit on the reef. It was more like we were checking on each other. I was like, "Are you ok? You're bleeding…are you good?" Obviously you want to get through your heat and you do your best to jockey for position and get the waves but it's not really like other places where you're just focused on what the other person in your heat is doing. Some of the heats out there when it's big and onshore and not even a good direction and it's shutting down nearly every wave ...it's more about just giving all of your attention to the wave itself, the set coming or where you're positioned. It's quite a bit different than surfing heats in less dangerous places. JG: Is the Tour less relevant for no longer having stops like Teahupo'o on the schedule? SB: I would say yes. We had a lot of quality waves at the events back through that 90's boom I was just speaking about. Along with Teahupo'o, we had Jeffrey's Bay and Cloudbreak which is a big challenging left on Tavarua in Fiji. There were definitely waves that pushed the level up a notch. It wasn't just about groveling around in beachbreaks. We had the Teahupo'o event replaced with an event at a closeout beachbreak in Brazil in Itacare. There's just no comparison (laughs) ...a closeout little beachbreak compared to Teahupo'o. There were a lot of politics that went into that decision. I heard that there were legalities or some girls didn't want to surf it or something like that. But you know …if you don't want to surf it, don't show up and let the alternate go and surf it. I got really hurt there but I still think it was a great event. I was just there in May and if run in the right conditions, Teahupo'o is definitely doable. It's a really challenging wave but that's how you grow the sport.
Photo Credits: CHRIS GRANT/JETTYGIRL.COM Go to PART TWO of An Afternoon with Serenea Brooke Read more about Serena Brooke at serenabrooke.com Watch Serena Brooke surf on JettyGirl's YouTube Channel